GMSF and Clean Air Zone to go out to consultation later this year

Greater Manchester's long-awaited housing and jobs masterplan, along with proposals for a regional Clean Air Zone, will go out for consultation later this year.

Both plans have been beset by delays since they were first announced, but there are hopes that they will be instrumental in the region’s recovery from Covid-19.

The Greater Manchester spatial framework (GMSF), which has undergone several drafts since 2016, aims to set out what land can be developed to drive economic growth.

While the government has given the combined authority £81m to clear brownfield sites, there is still a chance that parts of the green belt will still be built on.

It has been stressed that protected land will only be used where absolutely necessary.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he wants to see less of it in the final plan but he could not confirm how much of the green belt will actually be included, and hinted that there will ‘no doubt still be difficult decisions’.

He told a press conference on Wednesday: “This is about re-establishing momentum around ambitions we have for a greener Greater Manchester.

“Why accelerate this now given the world has changed? It’s going to be a long time before we know the full effects of how this crisis is going to affect our economy.

“If we were to wait for that, we would be leaving the green belt unprotected for a long time.

“We’re not prepared to see unplanned development across Greater Manchester, it’s very important that we have a plan in place that puts us in a strong position to recover.”

A consultation on the latest version of the GMSF will be signed off by the combined authority on Friday July 31.

The eight-week public consultation will take place in November following scrutiny by all of the local authorities.

Mr Burnham said: “I hope the Greater Manchester public will see we are trying our best to listen to what is being said and to come up with a plan that in the end people will find an acceptable compromise.”

It was also announced that the regional Clean Air Plan, which includes the largest Clean Air Zone in the UK, would go out for an eight-week consultation in October.

Buses, coaches, lorries, vans and taxis would be charged when entering the zone in a bid to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by 2024.

The combined authority has been criticised by environmental charity ClientEarth for missing several government deadlines to submit their final proposals.

Mr Burnham suggested that ClientEarth, which has successfully sued the government over its flawed air pollution plans in the past, should be working with regional leaders.

“This is a major undertaking that is going to require a lot of effort,” he said.

“ClientEarth need to realise that there will be people on the other side saying this goes too far, we’ve got try and find a proposal taht takes everybody for us.”

Mr Burnham thinks the zone can get cross party consensus locally as long as the government provides the £110m needed to help businesses make the switch to cleaner vehicles.

He added: “If that support isn’t forthcoming there would be a risk of what people would see as a government clean air tax.

“This scheme is not about revenue raising , it’s not a congestion charge. If it’s to be successful it will raise no money because it will encourage everyone to change vehicles.”

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